Reinforce the Good

/ Published in Unleash Jacksonville The NEW issue, written by Kate Godfrey, owner Comprehensive Canine Training

In 2020, I’d like to change the misconception some may have that positive reinforcement/force-free training is a free-for-all for the dog with no boundaries that relies on bribery. This could not be further from the truth. Positive reinforcement dog training is based on rewarding the behavior you do want. The aim is to make training quick, effective, and pleasant for both parties.

It’s simple—rewarded behavior continues—you get more of what you reinforce.

Part of good training relies on setting the scene up so the dog is highly likely to be successful, instead of putting the dog in a situation in which it’s over threshold, not likely to learn what you want, and ultimately setting them up for failure and punishment.

We control so many aspects of our dog’s world, that preventing unwanted behavior and setting the dog up to succeed is usually rather simple. This is called management—prevent the dog from rehearsing the undesirable behavior by controlling the environment.

Positive reinforcement training isn’t all about rewards. There are boundaries and consequences for making the wrong choice, but these consequences need not be painful or scary. A consequence can be positive, as a means for the dog to gain access to what it wants, or negative in the loss of the opportunity to gain access to what it wants.

All good relationships are built on trust. Trust is earned, it’s not given. By training with positive reinforcement, the dog is taught to trust the handler rather than fear the handler. We give the dog a choice by teaching the appropriate behavior from the start, rather than waiting for them to screw up and implement a punishment that is painful or scary.

Rather than going on and on about what you don’t want the dog to do, answer this question: “What do I want the dog to do instead?” This gives you the power and the opportunity to get what you want. If you can’t determine what it is you’d like the dog to do, imagine how frustrated the dog must be.

With this shift in mindset, you start seeing the opportunities to reinforce the dog for the behaviors you like and ways to prevent the unwanted behavior from occurring. When you start reinforcing the behavior you want, you can expect the dog to start offering more of it. •

/ comprehensivecaninetraining.com

Resolution: Ditch the Retractable

/ Published in The NEW Issue, Written by Connie Cannaday of the London Sanctuary

May 18, 2019, is a day that will be marked in my mind forever. Very early that morning, I got a call that no rescuer or pet owner would ever want to receive—a puppy under our care was found deceased on the side of the road. She’d gone missing from a sleepover with a potential adopter not 24 hours prior, and we’d been looking for her until late in the night. There’d been not so much as a sighting of this sweet girl since the first hour she disappeared. I was absolutely crushed. I’d certainly hoped to be bringing her back with us to The London Sanctuary that day, just not in this way. My husband and I went to Jacksonville to retrieve her little body.

In rescue you experience quite a bit of loss, but this was quite devastating. She was a beautiful, healthy, 5-month-old puppy who’d left on an adoption trial one Saturday, and a week later, when we should have been finalizing her adoption, we were picking her up to take to the vet for cremation. Cassandra was born in my home and lived with us for over five months. Now she was gone forever, and the reason was frustratingly simple—a leash that failed.

A brand new retractable leash that failed. I’m sure many families have used these without issue, but this time, this one failed. I didn’t like these leashes prior to this happening, but I didn’t do enough to educate the potential adopters, or this wouldn’t have happened. I want to be very careful in how I say this, because under no circumstances do I want the family to feel any more guilt than they already do. If you aren’t entrenched in animal welfare, the dangers are not common knowledge—many people still use retractables. And, for whatever reason, they are still sold in stores. I’ve even used them before I knew better. But I’ve made it my mission to help educate people about the dangers—to both humans and dogs—that can happen as a result of using these leashes.

Sweet Cassandra

Cuts, burns, or amputations of human fingers are very common dangers. Yes, I said common, and I said amputations. There’s even warning label on most of these about that very thing. Additionally, innocent bystanders can also become injured if the dog suddenly sees something and gets the leash entangled with a person, which can happen easily when a dog extends and you don’t have control—retractable leashes give you very little control, despite what you might think.

Some of the dangers to your dog can include: Injuries to legs (entanglement), injuries to backs and necks similar to whiplash when the human has to react quickly to a dog that has become hard to control. Dogs have been hit by cars after extending the leash too far. In Cassandra’s case, the leash fully extended and snapped, even though it was rated for her small size. Much of the problem is the lack of control these leashed offer—trainers do not recommend them for this very reason—the lack of control over your dog is just not safe.

To honor Cassandra, The London Sanctuary has rolled out a program to provide community members with durable regular leashes in exchange for their retractable ones. For this, we will have partnered with Max and Neo, who has donated the first batch, as well Brook from Troop 451 who experienced her own injury from one of these leashes.

We’re making this resolution easy on you! Stop by any of the exchange locations and let’s give your pup a new leash on life for 2020! •

Exchange your retractable leash for free at the following locations:

Arlington
Jax Biker Gear
1301-4 Monument Road (44.36 mi)
Jacksonville, 32225

Atlantic beach
American Well & Irrigation, Inc.
1651 Mayport Rd
Atlantic Beach, 32233

Bryceville
All Paws Pet Boarding and Day Care
8356 US Highway 301
Bryceville, 32009

Jax Beach
Beach Bark
2185 3rd Street South
Jacksonville Beach, 32250

Julington Creek/Fruit Cove
Jen Kespohl, Round Table Realty
1637 Race Track Road
Jacksonville, 32259

Lakewood/Mandarin
Central Bark Jacksonville
5614 San Jose Boulevard
Jacksonville, 32207

Middleburg
Homemade Hounds Bed & Biscuit
3450 County Rd 220
Middleburg, 32068

NAS Jax
Accu-Air Cooling Services
8544 Alicanta Ave.
Jacksonville, 32244

Westside
Star Nails and Hair
4819 San Juan Avenue
Jacksonville, 32210

Would your business like to be a leash exchange location?
Please contact The London Sanctuary!

 

 

THE TRUTH: I used to work in a store that sold puppies …

/ Published in The NEW Issue, Written by Anonymous

I can remember how excited I was when I got a job at a pet store. Like most, I thought it would be so fun—playing with puppies all day! It didn’t take long to realize it’s not fun at all, but extremely heartbreaking. Almost every single puppy that came through the store suffered from a respiratory illness at least once while it was there. Many came in already sick from being on a truck with hundreds of other puppies in filthy conditions with little food or fresh water until they got to their destination. These tiny beings would have so much poop stuck to their little behinds and all of the lighter colored ones would have urine stains.

We were taught to tell people about the loving responsible breeders that we were getting our puppies from. We never saw the actual parents of these pups, and even when we got them locally they would usually be covered in fleas and full of worms at the very least. There was the man who would bring tiny sick pups to us covered in burns from the generator outside his trailer. The couple who brought in Chihuahuas that had deformed legs that we’d send back and tell her not to breed them and we knew she would if she didn’t sell them.

Then there was the mange that would flare up so bad from these babies being so stressed that their eyes would swell shut, and the smell of parvovirus that would make us all scared to go home and touch our own dogs before we scrubbed ourselves.

I know this first hand, because I’ve experienced it behind the scenes—pet stores don’t make a profit off of well-bred dogs and that’s the bottom line. They get cheap puppies they can mark up and market as designer breeds because purebred dogs that are registered and have health testing done aren’t cheap. One little pup was returned to us because she needed a surgery for something that was missed when she went to the vet for her health certificate. The family couldn’t afford it and the store owner wouldn’t help pay for it but happily gave them another puppy because that was much cheaper and easier. I can remember we all wanted to steal her while she sat waiting for the company that she was purchased from to come pick her up. She was surely either euthanized or used to breed instead of living a healthy life with a loving family. That wasn’t the only instance that happened, just the first I had to see. My heart broke for every one that sat in those little containers and didn’t get a home right away—months of not getting to run and play and be loved by a family. I didn’t want to think about what the parents of all these dogs were enduring because it had to be so much worse. We’ve seen the hoarding cases over and over on the news. It’s easy to justify buying the cute puppy from the store when they all just need a home though, right? •

A note from the publisher: Be Better
^^ I so appreciate the former puppy store employee writing that article. Many places make their employees sign a non-disclosure agreement so they’re afraid to tell people what they’ve seen, but it’s important to have all the correct information when making decisions.
I’m sure you’re a lovely person who regularly crouches down to pet dogs, and doesn’t knowingly want to support any kind of cycle of suffering. You might not yet know that responsible breeders would never sell their puppies to stores or to the first person who shows up with cash—they have a process to keep their puppies healthy and safe. But … NOW YOU KNOW, my dear. Too often, a kind person like yourself unwittingly ends up buying a puppy mill pup. True, it’s hard to tell the difference, as they’re the same level of cute as other puppies, and when the store clerk tells you it came from a “good” place (and may have papers to make it look like they do)—why wouldn’t you believe them? According to the Humane Society of the United States “Most pet stores do not disclose the true origins of their puppies, instead using deceptive sales pitches about ‘USDA licensed’ or ‘professional’ breeders.”

I, of course, always encourage people to adopt—it’s the best! You can find pure-bred dogs and puppies in shelters and rescues, but maybe you don’t really need a purebred? There are major benefits to having a mixed breed.
If you’ve checked shelters and rescue groups and still haven’t found the right pup, you should ask for referrals from your veterinarian, or contact local breed clubs. Always always visit where the puppy is born and raised. Personally go to a breeder’s facility before committing to a puppy—don’t rely on website or emailed photographs. Take the time now to find the right breeder and you’ll thank yourself for the rest of your dog’s life.

What happens if you go ahead and buy that store puppy? Several things: You create a demand for more. You become part of an inhumane cycle of greed. Many other dogs suffer in puppy mills across the United States and in hands of backyard breeders. We have to speak with our wallets—this is NOT OKAY. Please think beyond the cute factor, be strong, and be better. Walk away. •

Download The Humane Society’s “How to Identify a Responsible Breeder” Guide

RESOLUTION: No more Riding in the Back!

/ Published in The NEW Issue Written by Jerr Blinkster

Buster is my BOY! He’s my sidekick—he goes everywhere with me. It’s always been just easier for Buster to jump into the back of the truck when we go places. It’s cleaner, too. I don’t want dog hair in my purty F150. He always did whine a bit, because he wanted to be with me in the cab, but he also loves the wind in his jowls.

But, listen guys, I was driving over the intercoastal a couple weeks back behind a truck with a dog in the bed and I saw something I can’t unsee—I’m a big hairy man and it made me ball like a baby. The truck had to swerve suddenly and the black lab skittered across the truck bed, over the side and onto the bridge. The truck wasn’t even going to stop because the driver didn’t realize they’d just unwittingly killed their dog. After I saw that, I did a little research and learned something staggering—according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, it’s estimated that around 100,000 dogs every year are fatally injured by jumping or falling from a pickup truck’s cargo area. Yikes man. Buster could become startled, see something tempting, like a squirrel or a hamburger, and jump out of my truck! He could be injured by the fall or struck by oncoming vehicles (and potentially cause an accident and injuries to other drivers). I thought about just tethering him with a leash, but according to the American Humane Society, many dogs have been strangled when tossed or bumped over the side of the truck and been left helplessly dangling.

Here’s another concern of mine, living in Florida—the galldang heat! The floor of a truck bed can become VERY hot, I’ve seen Buster dancing around back there, but figured his paws were like shoes. They’re NOT! He could get horribly burned and we’d have to take him to the emergency room. I’d feel like a real bad dad. I can’t stand to see Buster in pain.

One last reason that I’m resolving to keep Buster in the cab with me from now on—as if I needed another—I have a lead foot. That’s right. I like to drive real fast. A truck traveling at high rates of speed can kick up small pebbles and other road debris, which could strike my boy, Buster. He could lose one of his big brown eyes or worse. That would just about kill me.

Buster is a dog, but he’s also my best sidekick. The last thing I want is to see is him hurt just because I didn’t want a little dirt in my sweet F150. You got a truck, too? Save everyone a bit of heartbreak and make this resolution with me. •

The Gift of a Beautiful Good-bye

Sweet Sisters. Bella saying good-bye to Sophie.

/ #25 Trippin’ Issue
By Doryan Cawyer, owner,  Jade Paws

I arrived for Sophie’s last session with a heavy heart. While I was happy to see her and baby sister Bella, I knew this would be the last time we’d all be together. Her family and I had scheduled this Reiki session with the purpose of helping Sophie pass away peacefully, surrounded by the beautiful love she’d known her whole life.

I’d been sharing Reiki and TTouch with Sophie twice a month for the last year to help relieve the discomfort of degenerative arthritis and hip dysplasia. Sophie’s family had tried many things to ease her pain, including laser therapy and Adequan injections from her veterinarian, various joint supplements, and massage and Reiki. Despite all this wonderful effort, her condition continued to deteriorate. Eventually, Sophie stopped meeting me at the front door for our sessions. Her family bought her a hip harness so they could help her up and down on rough days. One day, her back legs slipped on the tile floor and she fell down so hard that she couldn’t get up at all. Her family contacted me and asked for an emergency Reiki session. They had also contacted Lap of Love for an in-home consultation after our Reiki session to see if it was time to let Sophie go. Her family adored her, but they didn’t want her to be in any more pain. But Sophie had other plans. She had a miraculous semi-recovery the night before Lap of Love arrived, and she was able to walk and move around again. We all agreed she wasn’t quite ready to go that day, but we also knew that she would be ready soon.

I believe Sophie felt that her family just needed a little more time with her. Sophie’s human dad had just retired and could be with her 24/7 to help her get around. We increased the frequency of her Reiki sessions to keep her comfortable, and after each session we talked about how Sophie would let us know when she was ready. The decision to let a pet go is a heavy burden for any parent, and Sophie’s family wanted to be sure they were doing what was best for her. We also started including younger dog, Bella, in the Reiki sessions to help her prepare for Sophie’s passing.

One night, Sophie’s dad awoke in the middle of the night to find Sophie sitting next to his bed, just staring at him. She’d never done this before. Her dad felt that Sophie was saying, “Ok Dad, now I’m ready.”

We scheduled one last Reiki session with the purpose of helping Sophie pass away surrounded by love and in a state of peace. Lap of Love was asked to help Sophie cross over after our session.

Bella taking in reiki and letting go of Sophie

So I arrived that day with a heavy heart. Although Sophie had long since ceased to meet me at the door, on that day, even Bella didn’t give me her usual boisterous greeting. Sophie was lying in the kitchen, sternal-looking out the window and panting. I prepared our space as usual with healing frequency music and a veterinarian-approved calming blend of essential oils in the diffuser. Upon allowing Reiki to flow, Sophie immediately relaxed. Her breathing became slower and calmer, she laid her head down, and her panting stopped. Over the last year, we’d come to laugh about how silly Bella would nonchalantly sneak away from her mom’s lap to lie next to Sophie or lick my face to soak up her share of the energy. However, today Bella chose to lie down a few feet away as her family and I surrounded Sophie with love and Reiki. Bella knew that today was different, and that it was all about Sophie. I paused the flow of Reiki a few times to check in with Sophie and her family, and each time we paused, Sophie would become alert and her panting would begin again. I decided to allow Reiki to flow for her uninterrupted until the veterinarian from Lap of Love arrived. At this point, Bella came over to lie next to Sophie, but without interfering in the session. Then she moved to lie as close to me as possible, again without trying to take my attention away from Sophie. Dr. Jessica McAlpin with Lap of Love arrived and gently prepared us for the next phase of Sophie’s passing. We all lovingly placed our hands on Sophie and told her how much we loved her. We thanked her for all the love and lessons she’d shared with us. I continued to allow Reiki to flow as Dr. McAlpin administered a sedative to help Sophie relax followed by the euthanasia solution.

Sophie passed away peacefully and quietly, surrounded by immense love. She was no longer in pain. Many tears were (and continue to be) shed, as Sophie is greatly missed.
I was honored and thankful to be part of the love that surrounded Sophie when she most needed it, and I’d like to thank Dr. McAlpin for the beautiful service that she and (all the wonderful doctors at Lap of Love) provide. Her kind and loving manner helped to make Sophie’s transition peaceful. Of course, we’re sad to let our beloved pets go. But the experience doesn’t have to be filled with fear and anxiety—for our pets or us. Calmly helping our pets pass in peace is one of the greatest final acts of love we can give them. •

Doryan Cawyer, owner of Jade Paws, is a Certified Canine Massage Therapist and Reiki practitioner in Jacksonville.

/ jadepaws.com

4 Things not to say to someone who’s fostering an animal

/ Published in the TRIPPIN’ Issue

by Karen Camerlengo

 

Fostering means bringing in a cat or dog—or parrot, horse, baby pig, or any other homeless pet—with the goal of nurturing them for a while until a permanent home can be found. Foster parents are an amazing and integral part of a system that saves lives.

Sometimes people unwittingly say things that aren’t supportive to the end goal of fostering. Here are a couple of things I (and other foster parents) routinely hear that are just not helpful:

You can’t give him up, he LOVES you!
Of course he does. I’m totally awesome. But you know what? He’s gonna love the person who adopts him even more.

She thinks she is HOME.
Yup. She does. And yes she looks happy. Considering where she just came from, she thinks she’s in Heaven. But she’s not home—yet. We’re working on it.

You HAVE to keep him!
No I don’t. Listen, every single animal that comes in my house is in danger of being kept by me; the lucky ones get adopted out. Truly, anyone who fosters is aware that they are going to fall in love, but we don’t take them in to keep them—we take them to help the transition to a better life. No amount of pressure from friends can make us want to keep an animal that does not fit into the family or the plan. Pet ownership and increasing the numbers is a serious consideration and one we don’t take lightly. If I were to make a foster a permanent family member, that would mean one less foster family in the system, because I can have only so many dogs in my home.

They LOVE each other!
(Said in reference to seeing the foster animal and resident dog/cat playing together or snuggling). Ummmm—yeah not so much. I took this picture so you would find my foster totally adorable. I can’t tell you about the baby gates or the crates or the fighting or the infighting in my own animals because you would think it’s the foster dog causing the problem. My dogs are being jerks but I can’t tell you any of it because the foster dog is super sweet and that’s what you need to know.

Helpful things you CAN say:
• She’s adorable—tell me more about her so I can share!
• Oh I have a friend looking for a dog, let me share!
• I’ll share!
• Thank you for fostering.

A note about social media
Foster parents post their furry temporary house guests on social media because we need your help finding them a forever home. We also want to show them off because, let’s face it, they are the cutest animals eve—but we really are hoping you will be so moved that you will share.
Foster animals are some of the best animals to share, as potential adopters can learn how they are with other animals, kids, etc. They can learn about the quirks and the skills. Foster dogs are so awesome—I hope you will feel inspired to share. •

Would YOU like to foster? All expenses are taken care of—you just need to provide love and a safe space. Please reach out to Animal Care and Protective Services, The Jacksonville Humane Society, or a reputable local rescue group!

Adopting Acorn

/ As seen in the TRIPPIN’ issue

Editor’s note: We recently received a message from a proud mama that thrilled us:
Dear Unleash, Beatrice is a reader of your magazine, and we recently ordered four back issues for her to dive into. She always has at least one Unleash Magazine with her for reading at restaurants, in the car, or wherever there might be a quiet moment. For years she has collected photos of animals in need of adoption, and she is so proud to now be the mommy to her first ever rescue pet! Acorn came from a hoarder home with 50 cats and 30 dogs, we are working to socialize him to his new life where everything is brand new to him … I wanted to share with you the appreciation my daughter has for your magazine.

WOW! What an amazing kiddo! We greatly appreciate Beatrice’s love for animals, commitment to adoption, and affinity for Unleash! We had to hear more about her newly adopted dog …

 

/ By Beatrice, Age 10
Acorn is our newly adopted dog, we got him from S.A.F.E Pet Rescue in St. Augustine on July 10. He is a Jack Russell-mix that is around one year old. We adopted him because he was the only dog at the shelter that would let us pet him, and he was playing with the other dogs in his run instead of barking at us. He seemed happy and calm, so we brought him home as a foster and then a few days later we decided to adopt him. Acorn is surprisingly mellow for a Jack Russell Terrier. Among his favorite things are sleeping, playing, and bone chewing. I enjoy training Acorn, walking him, playing and cuddling with him. In just two months, he has learned sit, lay down, wait, sit pretty, crawl, and roll over! Together we play fetch and frisbee, one time I was playing fetch with him and he was trying to go after the ball at the same time he had another ball in his mouth. We are still working on him catching the frisbee in his mouth.

When we first brought him home from the shelter, he was afraid of the slightest things, like a grocery bag, blinds suddenly opening, palm fronds swaying in the yard, trash cans on trash day, his own shadow and reflection, and some new people. Since bringing him home, almost all of these fears have diminished. When he first meets new people I have to ask them not to reach down and pet him at first because he is handshy. Once he has the chance to sniff feet and feel secure he is much more willing to be petted. This has taught me that some dogs are shy when they first meet new people and not to go straight down and pet them and to always ask before petting a dog.

Recently, we took Acorn to North Carolina and he loved it. He was climbing on the rocks like a mountain goat. He enjoyed hiking and if we tried to turn around on a hike Acorn would just stand there and look at us like, please let me keep hiking. It was so cute! Acorn was so good during the car ride to North Carolina—he didn’t whine, whimper, or bark on any of the long car rides.

Having Acorn in my life has made everything better by a vigintillion. I think if Acorn could talk he would say the same. •

The day we met Acorn
Acorn’s first trip to the beach
The happy day we brought Acorn home

Blu and The City – My Favorite “PIT” Stops in Jacksonville’s Best Kept (Dog-Friendly) Secret: Historic Springfield

 

Blu and The City – My Favorite “PIT” Stops in Jacksonville’s Best Kept (Dog-Friendly) Secret: Historic Springfield

As seen in Unleash Jacksonville, Issue #24, HEART
by / Blu Beauregard (with help from mum, Alaina Mitchell)
Follow on Instagram @blu_the_pit_about_town

Springfield is one of Jacksonville’s most walkable communities and boy do I know it! With beautiful sidewalk lined streets, gorgeous historic homes, lots of parks to visit, and the friendliest neighbors around, its easy for an energetic pup like myself to stay busy. But what a lot of dog parents don’t know is Springfield is full of amazing restaurants and shops that love to roll the red carpet out for their four-legged guests! Here are a few of my favorites…

Hyperion Brewing Company
Bad to the Bone! Hyperion Brewing Company is a family-owned brewery and comes fully-stocked with lots of belly rubs and kisses. Mum and I always feel like family when we visit—I’m always offered a seat at the table, a bowl of fresh water, and lots of attention. There’s comfy, shaded seating in the front with a wonderful view of main street, as well as a huge, covered beer garden in the back with lots of room to roam. When mum and I go out for a night on the town it’s important for her to know I’m comfortable and having fun, so she can enjoy herself, too. In that regard, Hyperion scores a 5 out of 5 bones! Be sure to have your PAWrent check out their event calendar on Facebook because there is always something fun brewing!

I’m a sucker for places with great music, like Hyperion Brewing.

Crispy’s Springfield Gallery
I’m the kinda pup that likes a seat at the table, and at Crispy’s there’s always a special spot for us fur-babies! The seating out front is shaded and cooled with fans. They always have bowls full of water for their most important of guests, and the team there stays on top of keeping it full, in fact I usually get ice and a lemon in mine—because dogs are people too, right? My favorite part is how special I feel! Everyone swoons over me and makes certain that I am entertained so mum can have a good time. She always orders me the meatballs and I must say they are the best! Mum says “the drinks are generous and the food is to die for!”

How adorable is my grammy? She loves taking me to Crispy’s.

Social Grounds Coffee
Us dogs LOVE making our Humans happy, right? Next time you want to make your Mum or Dad smile take them out to Social Grounds!! As soon as you walk in you will find a big bowl of fresh water (because they have their priorities straight) which is fabulous after a stroll in this Summer heat! The team there is always happy to see you and, best of all, they have a treat stash behind the counter! According to Mum, they make the best frapps in town and they have a great assortment of snacks too!

See how happy mum is at Social Grounds?

 

Must Attend Event: Second Saturday Market Nights
This is a fun monthly event, featuring great music, food trucks, local vendors, cocktails and more, is held behind Bobby K Boutique and Bark on Main! It’s a true “Who Let The Dogs Out” kinda night! (For more info check out the SPAR event calendar on Facebook.)

Springfield is a lot like me—fun, friendly, and really good looking! The people of this community are proud of its history and they work hard to make it a beautiful place to visit. From spacious parks to tasty dining and hip breweries, there’s no shortage of things to do with your furry family members.
Come enjoy Springfield with me soon! •

Just me bein’ cute.

Don’t forget to follow Blu on Instagram – @blu_the_pit_about_town . He’s the most adorable ever.

A Gift Of The Heart

A Gift of the Heart / Jessica Caplette
As seen in Unleash Jacksonville / No. 24 HEART Issue

“There will always be that dog that no dog will replace, that dog that will make you cry even when it’s been gone more years than it could have ever lived.”

(MD ‘The gift of a great dog’)

I cried when asked to write a story for the HEART issue of Unleash Jacksonville. Just the mention of a heart dog was enough to flood my face with tears (in public…again). I lost my heart dog after a two-year fight with lymphoma.

But this story is about beginnings…

Remi was a black dog who wasn’t doing well in a rural shelter. Fur Sisters stepped up and gave her the break she needed. She had two failed fosters and was back in boarding needing a savior. So why not me?

Remi was on kitchen counters, sailing over couches, digging, chasing cars, jumping on people and scaring the crap out of anyone on a bicycle. She was a disaster! There was no way anyone was going to adopt her! Luke hadn’t been home all week, but Thursday night he got to experience our new foster first-hand. That night he slept on the couch with her and Remi was immediately smitten.

We sent our unruly foster to training the next day at Jet Set Pets. She came home a few weeks later a manageable dog! Luke worked with her every day for a few more weeks and Remi was finally ready for her first adoption event!

I vividly remember watching Luke take her into the yard at Brewhound and her looking at him like he was the only one in the park. With the grin on his face, I knew he found his heart dog. When we left that night, he asked if we could talk about keeping Remi. My heart was still shattered from losing Max, I wasn’t ready for a new family member.

A week later Remi was headed back down to Brewhound for a meeting with potential adopters. Luke was furious that I wouldn’t even discuss keeping Remi and I was forcing him to participate. “It’s not fair that you’re going to deny me experiencing with Remi what you had with Max!” Words true enough I had to choke back tears. I don’t think anyone should be denied the privileged experience of a heart dog.

We arrived and Kelly from Fur Sisters asked Luke to fill out some information on Remi that might help the adopters. He took the pen, likely cussing me out under his breath, and started to read the questions:

1. Would you love Remi forever?
He shot me a dirty look.

2. We hope you answered yes because she is yours forever!

Tears welled up in his eyes as confusion became understanding that this “adoption meet and greet” was all for him. Remi knew, because in that moment she jumped on him frantically kissing him…and wouldn’t you know it but there just so happened to be a photographer handy (thank you Layla Neal)!

I love dogs. I’ve loved all my dogs deeply. But I think you only get one heart dog. And I’m so grateful that Luke found his. •

ROCCO – I call him my puppy soulmate

 

My Heart Dog / Gina Pape
As seen in Unleash Jacksonville / No. 24 HEART Issue

ROCCO

It alllll started two years ago in July. Before I met my boyfriend, I was living alone and I missed our family dogs—we’d always had a dog (or three) running around. A house is just not a home to me unless there’s a dog running around! I went to the Jacksonville Humane Society three times in one week. The third time was the charm! I saw Rocco (previously Dixon) posted as a new dog that morning. I walked up to his cage when I got there and he looked completely exhausted. He let out a little tail wag and smile. That was it. I chose him. I brought him home and was completely in love right away. I wanted a dog who would never leave my side—that’s what I got, and so much more! As much as he’s attached to me, I’m just as attached to him. My family calls him Shadow Boy, as I trip over him on a weekly basis. I’ve had six family dogs throughout my life, but never one of my very own—Rocco is my first. I’ve never shared a bond or connection with a dog as I do with Rocco. He’s so special. He truly is my everything and will forever hold a piece of my heart. I honestly can’t put into words how much he means to me. He’s on my mind all day, every day—yes, I’m obsessed! I call him my puppy soulmate … he’s everything and more I could ever want in a best friend.

Photos: Woof Creative Photography